Best Smartphones 2014

We use smartphones to check email and Facebook, take pictures, surf the Web, play games and a whole lot more. But how do you choose the best smartphone for you? The iPhone continues to offer the most intuitive interface and tends to get the hottest apps first. Android smartphones, however, offer larger screens, more features and more customization options. Windows Phones are ideal great for both smartphone newbies and photographers (see Nokia's Lumia line).

At LAPTOP, we review dozens and dozens of smartphones per year based on design, features, performance and value to help you make the right choice. Here are the best smartphones for every major carrier and platform available today.

Find the Best Smartphone for You

By Mark Spoonauer, Editor-in-Chief — Last Updated: July 21, 2014

Best Overall Smartphone: Samsung Galaxy S5

The Galaxy S5 has its share of exciting new features, including a built-in fingerprint sensor and heart rate monitor that works with an improved S Health app. But that's not why it's our top pick. The S5 boasts a faster camera with real-time HDR for better pictures, a bigger and even more beautiful display and considerably longer battery life. All of this is wrapped in a design that can shrug off a splash or dunk in water. Although we're not fans of the charging port flap, overall the S5 is the best smartphone money can buy.

MORE: Why the Galaxy S5 is the Best Smartphone You Can Buy

Best Smartphone Design and Sound: HTC One M8

With a luxurious metal design, sleek Sense UI and booming speakers, the HTC One (M8) is one of the best smartphones around. The One M8's 5-inch, 1920 x 1080-pixel display makes videos and photos look stunning, and the handset's refreshed BlinkFeed interface turns your home screen into a seamless, colorful hub for all of your news and social updates. Factor in the M8's fun Duo Camera and colossal battery life, and you've got a winner.

HTC One M8 Review

Best Smartphone for Apps and Camera: Apple iPhone 5S (All Major Carriers)

The iPhone 5S takes one of the best smartphones and gives it a serious dose of speed, thanks to Apple's new A7 chip and 64-bit architecture. We're talking double the overall performance and graphics power. Plus, the 5S offers a much improved camera with bigger pixels and a dual flash.

A new Touch ID feature lets you unlock your device and make purchases via a built-in fingerprint sensor. Add in a higher capacity battery and multiple color options (including space gray and gold ) and you have one heck of a sequel.

Apple iPhone 5s Review

Best Big-Screen Smartphone: Samsung Galaxy Note 3

The ultimate phablet, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 boasts a bright full HD screen, superfast Snapdragon 800 processor and more than 11 hours of battery life. Samsung has also made lots of enhancements to its pen software, making it easier to take and share notes. Multitaskers will love the ability to not only run two apps side by side but drag content from one window to the other. You'll need two hands to handle this beast, but if you want a phone that can double as a tablet, the Note 3 is by far the best choice.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Review

Best Smartphone Deal: OnePlus One

Here's the deal--literally. Although it's not even close to being a household name, the OnePlus One deserves to be on your smartphone shortlist. For just $299 unlocked, you get a big 5.5-inch full HD screen, a zippy Snapdragon 801 processor and absolutely fantastic battery life of more than 13 hours. There's even more goodness to entice, including Cyanogen Mod software running on top of Android 4.4, which gives you more customization and security options--not to mention nifty lock screen shortcuts.

OnePlus One Review

Best Waterproof Phone: Samsung Galaxy S5 Active

Dunk it. Drop it. Kick sand in its face. The Galaxy S5 Active is the smartphone that's so durable that you won't need a case. This Android device can survive being submerged in 3 feet of water for 30 minutes, and you can even take pictures using its 16-MP camera while underwater. Plus, the durable handset can survive multiple drops from 4 feet and keep on ticking. Otherwise, you get all the best features of the S5, including a bright and vivid AMOLED display, long battery life and a built-in heart rate monitor. The only thing missing is the fingerprint reader.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Active Review

Best Windows Phone: Nokia Lumia 1020 (AT&T)

Shutterbugs will love the Lumia 1020 from Nokia, an AT&T exclusive that packs a 41-megapixel sensor along with six Carl Zeiss lenses. The result is one of the best camera phones ever, complete with the ability to zoom in (or out) on your photos after they're taken. We also love the Pro Camera app, which lets you tweak exposure, focus and more via nifty slider controls. This is easily the best Windows Phone yet.

Nokia Lumia 1020 (AT&T) Review

Best No-Contract Phone: Google Nexus 5

The $349 Nexus 5 delivers cutting edge specs for a budget-friendly price for those looking to avoid contracts. The handset boasts a very fast Snapdragon 800 processor for running the latest Android 4.4 KitKat software. You also get a sharp 1080p display for enjoying the latest games and apps from the Google Play store. The Nexus 5 supports AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, so you can get 4G LTE speeds on any of those three carriers.

Google Nexus 5 Review

Best Smartphone Battery Life: LG G2 (All Major Carriers)

A bold departure from other smartphones, the LG G2 places its power button and volume controls in the back. But that's not what stands out most for us. This Android phone lasted a whopping 10 hours and 42 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test, which consists of 4G LTE surfing at 40 percent brightness. Other highlights include a super fast Snapdragon 800 processor, a sharp 13-MP camera with optical image stabilization and some pretty nifty multitasking features.

LG G2 (AT&T) Review